Monday, September 10, 2012

Thanks to those who saved me.

Happy Suicide Prevention Day, everyone!

Happy and suicide seem like oxymorons, but a day in which we talk about mental health and suicide is a good day to me. There are thousands and thousands of people suffering with thoughts of suicide, and it is the 3rd leading cause of death for youth age 15-24. Men are more likely to succeed in suicide, based mostly on their method of choice, (handguns and hanging are popular among males.) Many things can lead to suicidal thoughts, such as mental illness (e.g, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar, ect.) drug use, family breakdowns, abuse, neglect, ect, and are usually accompanied by feelings of hopelessness, and the belief that there is no other alternative.

People who attempt or complete suicide do not want to die. They simply want to put an end to their emotional/mental pain, and often feel that there is no other option for them.
I was rather suicidal through my teenage years, I was rather suicidal, ended up in the hospital once, and did some damage to myself over the years. But this post isn’t about the things I went through, rather, it’s about the numerous people who saved my life, directly or indirectly.

Thank you, Bria, my junior high friend, who found out about my suicide plans and reported it to a teacher. And many thanks to that teacher, who took the report seriously and intervened. I may have hated both of them at the time, but looking back, I couldn’t be more grateful.

Thank you to my ninth grade science teacher, who listened when I told her I “used to want to kill myself.”

Thank you to Leslie, my first girlfriend, who walked with me through every turbulent moment, and listened whenever I needed someone.

Thank you to the English department in high school, who never failed to raise my self-worth

Thank you to Josi, who always understood, and did whatever she could to support me.

Thank you to every counselor who listened to me, offered support, and ways to improve my life. Especially Michelle, who didn’t let me go, even when I tried to get away.

I’m alive today because these people realized something was wrong, and stopped to help, even if it was only to ask, “Are you okay?”

Take an interest in those around you. If someone appears depressed, or has been speaking frequently about death or suicide, take a moment to ask them if they’re all right. You could end up saving someone’s life, even if you don’t know it.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Suicide: Myth or Fact?

It’s a pretty scary word. For some, it ranks up there with infanticide and pedophilia—why would anyone willingly take their own life? Those who have never had any sort of contact (knowingly) with mental illness or suicide may find the idea ridiculous, idiotic, or just plain selfish, but it’s anything but.

Myth or Fact:

Suicide is the easy way out. This myth BAFFLES me. Anyone who has attempted suicide or has a history of self-harm will tell you suicide is ANYTHING BUT easy. Even those who are determined to end their own life still have the survival instinct buried within them. That means they may subconsciously try to save themselves. Many failed suicide attempts are due to survival instincts kicking in at the last moment. More so, SUICIDE HURTS. You are trying to die, and anyone who has been in a medically critical state will tell you DYING HURTS. But for some, this pain is better than nothingness or the depression they feel. Dying is exceedingly painful, but they’ve come to a point in which living causes them even more pain.

Suicide is selfish. People who say this make me REALLY ANGRY. The people who insist suicidal persons should stop what they’re doing and keep living for the sake of their friends and family are incredibly selfish. This person is in extreme mental or emotional pain. They’re not trying to die to make everyone around them feel miserable. They just want a way to end their own torment. Would you call someone who wanted to escape a torture chamber selfish? No? Then STFU.

People who talk about suicide won’t do it. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. One of the first warning signs that someone may be considering suicide is they begin TALKING ABOUT IT. If someone you know starts to fixate on death, dying, or suicide, talk to them about it! They may be at risk of seriously harming themselves!

People who attempt suicide and fail are simply seeking attention.  Remember when I mentioned those survival instincts? Sometimes that takes the form of not cutting deep enough, ripping the bag off their head while trying to suffocate, not securing their hanging rope, ect. This doesn’t mean they’re not serious. It means subconsciously, they want to live. If someone attempts suicide and fails, intervene IMMEDIATELY. Most people will attempt suicide more than once before they succeed.

Only depressed people attempt suicide. Most people in their life will experience suicidal thoughts, whether or not they suffer from a mental illness. 2/3 of university students will contemplate suicide due to stress. Suicide is a result of someone who is very unhappy, suffering emotionally or mentally, and feel there is no way out. Just like depression, ANYONE can be affected by thoughts of suicide. It is not an issue that pertains to age, gender, social status, race. There are children in our programs as young as 5, 6, 7 who often display suicidal thoughts or actions. Without intervention, many of these children would either attempt, or at the very least engage in self-harm.

Familiarize yourself with the warning signs of suicide. It is 100% preventable, and it’s time we erased the stigma so more people will reach out for help. It’s time suicide became history.



Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Welcome to the Surface!

So I've set up a companion blog to my main writing blog The Underground. This blog, The Surface, will include everything related more heavily to psychology, sociology, evolution, politics-- all these miscellaneous things I have thoughts on. Some subject matter may cross back and forth between the blogs, but for the most part, they should be fairly separate.

So, I'll explain the names. The first book I tried to publish was a series centered around two parallel universes known as The Underground and The Surface. The Surface was very regimented and controlled, and I feel that reflects the psychology part of me. The Surface was a negative place in the story, and I feel a lot of the subject matter that I will discuss on this blog will be depressing (I will discuss abuse, mental health, drug abuse, but those won't be the only things, promise!) but it will also be helpful for those who are suffering mentally or emotionally, even in a small way. This blog will include tips, tricks, and challenges for people who want to improve their mental well-being.

Meanwhile, The Underground, in the story, was a chaotic, anarchist society, so all my writing and artsy stuff will remain there. :) Feel free to follow both, should the subject matter interest you.

Welcome to The Surface! I hope you enjoy your stay.



Dear Teen Me

16-year-old Katie, and the certain someone at my side.
Dear Teen Me:

This is not the end.

Life does not end at 18. I wish I could convey to you how magical life has gotten in the years since high school, but I know you won’t believe me. You think you’re worth nothing, that you’re less than dirt, that soon you’ll be swept out with the rest of the garbage. You’ll try to kill yourself many times, and thank God each attempt will fail.

High school will be a nightmare for you. Every day in those halls only tightens the anxiety’s grip on you. By the time your senior year comes around, you’ll be a spiraling mess, but somehow you’ll hold it together. Because not only do you live to see graduation, but you’ll do it with honors, proving you are as smart as you hope you are. All your insecurities are products of your anxiety, which is not your fault. You’d find some way to blame yourself if the sun went out, and honey, it just ain’t worth it. Let go of the guilt and fear and uncertainty. No, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Yes, you can do it.

High school may seem like a new opportunity for you. After all, as you step into your new school, you’ve left behind your old enemies and the pain of your last suicide attempt. It’s a fresh start, and I wish I could tell you it’ll be that simple. But the fact is, the worst is just beginning.

You’ll learn that demons wear friendly faces, that abuse isn’t just fists and screaming. The boy you’re about to befriend will completely absorb your life. You won’t realize it at first. You’re lonely, you’re depressed, and you want to make a fresh start, but this boy will only drag you back into everything you want to escape. He will pull you back down into depression. He will undermine your confidence. He will convince you that you are worthless, that you need him, that the two of you are soul mates. You won’t realize what he’s done until it’s too late.

After the first few months, you will become his prisoner. You won’t realize it, of course—after all, if he keeps telling you how much he cares for you, it’s difficult to see the negative side of things. But he will eventually hit you. And strangle you until you black out. And leap across the room to attack you. He may not leave bruises, you may think you deserve it, but it’s still wrong.
 Don’t be fooled by his crocodile tears. He will say anything to convince you to forgive him. He will lie and cheat and steal from you. He will publicly humiliate you. He will turn your friends against you. Don’t ignore that anger you feel. It’s justified. Give into it, and start fighting back. It will be difficult, but slowly you will wedge a distance between you two. Don’t feel guilty for it; you’re doing what you need to for your emotional and mental well-being. Your other friends will understand, and they will support you, once they too realize what’s been happening.

When you finally free yourself from his control, it will be difficult to get back on your feet. You will try to hurt yourself in serious ways. You will face a crippling depression and anxiety. You may doubt your capability to do anything right. You will hit the lowest of lows, but you will climb back up afterwards.

I may only be a few years older than you, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s this: Nothing is forever. Not the good, and not the bad.

Someday, this pain will be useful to you. You’ll use it to help kids who are in similar situations. You’ll learn how to handle your worries and insecurities (Mostly.)  You’ll gain back confidence. You will be happy again.

But please, don’t give up hope. It does get better. Trust me.


20-year-old Katie.

It's Not Rocket Science

So, I know I mostly blog about writing, but I have a lot of FEELS and they won't fit on twitter.

So, I've been at my job in social services for about 9 months now. It's been like coming home, and there's nothing I love more than going to work. Seeing the kids is the best part of my day, especially because a lot of them are only a few years younger than me.

It's been a great learning experience, and it's put a lot of things into perspective.

When I was 15, I met one of my best friends. She came from the North end of the city (The only people who get that reference will probably be my fellow Calgarians, sadly...) She was raised in an abusive home, with two younger half-siblings, her step-father and her mother. She suffered from numerous forms of abuse, including verbal, emotional, and physical. By the time I met her, she'd been through the child care system,  had been to foster care for periods of time, and her life was starting to settle back to normal. She had a bright future, excelled in school, spoke two languages-- and this girl could sing.

And now? Well, let's just say she still sings. Sometimes.

I love her to death, but over the years I've watched the toll the abuse has taken on her. Because that's just it-- when you abuse a child, it sets the tone for their life. Can they break out of it? Yes, but it is extremely difficult. These children only know violence, abuse, and neglect. That is their way of life. Does that make them bad people? No. But their decision making skills are sometimes questionable. For example, a wife continually returning to her abusive husband is sometimes known as Battered Wives Syndrome, and indeed, her decision making skills are impaired. The wife continues to place herself in a dangerous situation, despite so many opportunities to escape pain. This holds true with children who've grown up in an abusive home. When you've never been taught something, how can you know to do, or not to do it?

That's what gets me so angry about this whole situation. It's not fair. As a person, as a human being, what gives you the right to warp a child's life like that? What difference is this from brainwashing, really?

Maybe I'm too optimistic for this world. But if you as me, we live in a first world country. We're educated, have access to health care, and have the freedom to go to school, go to work, and believe whatever we want. So WHY is it so hard for people NOT TO BEAT THEIR KIDS. Honestly, people, this isn't rocket science.



Let Me Tell You a Story

Gather round, kiddies. I know I've been flitting in and out of the internet world for the past like, what? Four? Six months? I think you all deserve a reason why.

Let me paint you a little picture. This last December I was not in a good place. I have crippling anxiety, but I had yet to realize it at the time. I'd just dropped out of university, was feeling horribly depressed and agoraphobic, and I had no job. Life was miserable. Finally, I managed to snag a job with a temp agency. After a few jobs serving plated dinners at big Christmas parties, I decided I needed something more stable. So I talked to my temp agency and they hooked me up with a seven month job at a child and family services agency.

I had no idea what I was getting into.

The first day I missed, because I was too terrified of the prospect of a new job with people I didn't know. The next day, I made it. I stepped into the tiny waiting room at quarter after eight, but there was no one to be found. I sat on the couch, incredibly nervous, when a lady stepped out of a door down the hallway. I watched her walk towards me, wearing her long skirt, glasses, her hair a pile of dark curls. She said to me, "Are you the new receptionist?"

"Yes," I said.

"Good, come on in. My name's Rinah."

"I'm Katie."

Within the next ten minutes, I would come to meet my other coworkers. In the weeks that followed, I would grow to get to know and love each of them. Mary, the lovable admin assistant who helped with the aboriginal department and was always willing to listen. Deb, the snarky second-in command with a die-hard love of penguins. And Stephen, the nerdy little gamer boss.

I'm kind of embarrassed to admit I had no idea what kind of place I was actually working at, but I found out fast. That first day, I read reports of what some of the kids were doing-- apparently, the previous day, when I'd been too anxious to come to work, one of the kids nearly jumped off a cottage roof. This was a residential treatment facility for children and teenagers who'd suffered through abuse, sexual exploitation, poverty, drugs, neglect, and a million other problems that would turn your stomach just thinking about it.

After that first week, I was in love. Everyone in this agency treated me with such love and care, compared to the horrible abuse I suffered at my last job (Before the temp agency) More than that, I was fascinated by these kids. I wanted to know more about them. I wanted to find out how they were being treated. I wanted to help them. I felt an extreme kinship to a lot of the kids. Each report I got was a new piece of a story unfolding before me. Every day I glimpsed into the lives of these troubled kids, most of which I've never met.

Now, as my contract came to a close, I knew I couldn't leave this agency. I'd grown to love everyone and everything about it, so I asked for a job as a relief staff in one of the Independent Living Programs, which is sort of like a group home. On my first day, I bonded with one of the boys there, who was incredibly smart, though he had some tics in which he blinked a lot and snapped his fingers. I was amazed by how easily he opened up to me. I've always been terrified of people, and yet this boy, who'd suffered through many traumas in his life, accepted me without a second thought.

In the weeks that followed, I eventually made it to shift leader, and spent two shifts by myself in the home. I was really honored to be trusted that much, as I have no certification, and little to no training. But it was incredible. Just like before, the kids accepted me. Maybe not always fully, but they watched movies with me, played games with me, and I managed to navigate the not-so-good times without losing my cool.

On one of my shifts in which I was working alone, a girl in the home was having a rough time, as she'd just broken up with her boyfriend. I went down and talked to her for a long time. All I had to do was show her I was willing to listen, and out poured all her secrets. She's been in the system for a number of years now, as she'd been taken away from her parents by the courts.

She showed me pictures of her family. "My brother and I are pack rats," she told me. "We store food everywhere. Sometimes, we'd find pizza behind the couch that my brother had left there and forgot about."

"Haha. Ew, that's nasty."

"Yeah, but we'd never know when we'd eat next, sometimes."

She told me about her experience with the cops, how she'd lost it and pulled a knife on them when they'd tried to apprehend her. "I was walking to my grandmother's house. I had a plan. I thought, if I could just get there, then everything would be okay. We'd live happily ever after."

She showed me all her art, but one piece in particular caught my eye. It was a photography poster with a bunch of different shots. They were all accompanied by short paragraphs of prose, explaining it. One picture was a phrase that had been carved into the door of one of the confinement rooms back on campus.

It read, "Show some compassion for the suffering soul."

It struck me hard, especially when the girl told me who had carved the message. It was a client I knew. A client still on campus. A client I had read so much about. Guys, the client who scratched those words, has literally been through HELL.

In that moment, I felt so connected to that client. She doesn't know it, but I love her, and so do a lot of other people. The world can be a cruel place. Sometimes people will hate you for no reason, but it works just the opposite, too. People can love you, without ever having met you.

So that's my story. These people changed my life. And you want to hear the best part? Once my contract expired, they offered me a permanent job at the front desk, where I've been working this whole time.

So kiddies, that's where I've been. I promise to be around more often now, and I may post more about my real life stuff now, as well as mental health. :) Learning about mental health is the best way to write better characters, anyway. Am I right? ;)